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Why You Should Hire the Kid Eating Sand

How playground observations can help build a more balanced -- and playful -- workforce.

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See that kid dumping sand on his head? That's your future Chief Marketing Officer. And the girl sitting quietly watching the squirrels? Yep, she's your next CEO deep in thought.

As a former corporate HR pro and mom of a 3 year old, I find myself watching playground activities and extrapolating future callings. It's fascinating to imagine these kids sitting at a boardroom table in less than 20 years -- and I already know which ones I want to recruit for an optimal management mix!

The Observer

Every organization needs patient, quiet observers -- those kids who watch their friends roll toys down the slide noting speed and trajectory. He sees what happens when you fall on the sand vs. the concrete. He understands how high you can go on the swing before a parent will step in. The observer is keenly aware of his surroundings. He takes note of interactions, watches consequences, and most importantly he listens.

This is the leader who can quickly assess a situation and come to a fruitful decision after thinking through multiple options. This is the manager who knows what good talent looks like and can build an organization.

The Wild Child

She is loud. She is aggressive. She wants what she wants, and she wants it NOW. This is also the child who will be the first to try everything. Scarfing back the sand? Done. Take the monkey bars two at a time? Cake. Conquer the slide head-first and on her back? Watch me.

Why do I want a wild child in my organization? Because she’ll take risks and she’s competitive by nature. She may not be a natural leader, but people will follow her example. She will push the limits and by doing so, help create a culture of possibilities.

The Follower

This is the boy who gets such a thrill from walking behind his big brother and doing everything he does! He is easy-going and doesn’t mind waiting his turn. He usually has a smile on his face and an even-temper. He loves being second in line. He watches his friend try every piece of playground equipment and then jumps on knowing exactly what to expect.

Not everyone can be the chief, nor do I want my company full of “me first” types. I need doers, too. I need those who figure out what to do or not do by watching others and then jumping in. I want the people who love to deliver and are damn good at it.

If Freud was right, our personalities are formed by age five.

Personalities are what we bring to our organizations every day. They shape how we interact with others, how we lead, how we follow, and how we contribute.

Next time you are in a quandary about who to hire to complete your team, picture who you have and who you may be missing based on personalities at play. Then go find a playground!

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Jan 17, 2014

KATHY RAPP’s is SVP of the HR professional services firm hrQ. She has booked time in corporate HR with the likes of Four Seasons Hotels, Morgan Stanley, and First Data, as well as a startup in the entertainment industry.
@katrapp




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